- Views & Opinions
Jurors in Chicago convicted an avowed neo-Nazi of encouraging violence against the gay foreman of a jury in a 2004 trial of a white supremacist.
William A. White, 33, could face up to 10 years in prison when sentenced. The one-time jury foreman who White was accused of targeting sat on a spectators’ bench in the courtroom, leaned forward and cried after the guilty verdict was read. White, a burly native of Roanoke, Va., turned to his attorneys and shook his head in disappointment.
During a trial that lasted three days, prosecutors told jurors that White threatened the foreman by posting the man’s name, photograph, address, cell phone number, sexual orientation and even his cat’s name on his neo-Nazi website. Defense attorneys argued it was protected free speech.
“It is critical to our system of justice that jurors and judges alike must be free to perform their duties without living in fear,” Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in a statement after the verdict.
A sentencing hearing hasn’t been set. White is serving a 2 1/2 year prison sentence in a separate case in Virginia on a 2009 conviction for using his website, e-mail and telephone to harass strangers.
Prosecutors conceded that White did not explicitly call for attacks on the foreman in the 2008 posting. But they argued that, given White’s history of advocating violence, simply listing the personal information amounted to a clear call for fellow neo-Nazis to seek vengeance.
“The whole context has to be considered,” trial prosecutor William Hogan told reporters. “(White) argued for people to be killed, lynched, shot and beaten.”
White’s website, which has since been shut down, regularly attacked nonwhites, Jews and gays. The site, overthrow.com, drew national attention in 2008 when it featured an article about a possible assassination of then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.
During his trial, White’s attorneys noted that their client never directly threatened the former juror and, however offensive his views, the postings were constitutionally protected.
The jury on which the foreman served convicted white supremacist Matthew Hale for soliciting the murder of a federal judge in 2004. Four years later, White wrote about the foreman in a posting entitled “The Juror Who Convicted Matt Hale.”
Judge Lynn Adelman, who presided over the trial, initially dismissed the indictment against White, but an appeals court in June reinstated the charge. Appellate judges said the website post didn’t necessarily deserve First Amendment protection, though they indicated it was crucial to determine whether White intended for one of his readers to harm the juror.